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“When a Woman Speaks the Truth About Her Body”: Ethel Smyth, Virginia Woolf, and the Challenges of Lesbian Auto/biography

Wiley, C (2004) “When a Woman Speaks the Truth About Her Body”: Ethel Smyth, Virginia Woolf, and the Challenges of Lesbian Auto/biography Music and Letters, 85 (3). pp. 388-414.

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Abstract

As professionals who encountered first-hand the invidious barriers within patriarchal society that hindered career women, Ethel Smyth and Virginia Woolf both used their published writings to pursue lifelong crusades against the under-representation of females in their respective disciplines. This article compares the different strategies by which the two artists strove to tell the truth about their experiences as women, and considers the corresponding implications for Smyth’s musical output. While the egotistical Smyth candidly recounted stories relating to herself, Woolf excised overt authorial presence from her texts, instead invoking fictitious, protean narrators to reflect the collective unconsciousness of Womanhood. Woolf’s encouragement and criticism of Smyth’s literary endeavours are examined in the context of her biographical theories and feminist critiques, and of the lesbian proclivities of both women. Their published writings and personal documents suggest that Smyth actively appealed to the very autobiographical strategies that Woolf persistently counselled her to subvert, in order to compete with the (heterosexual) patriarchy on equal terms. She apparently held this option to be the only available one through which to insinuate herself within the canonical traditions specific to music, as distinct from those of literature.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Arts > Music
Authors :
AuthorsEmailORCID
Wiley, CUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
Date : 2004
Identification Number : 10.1093/ml/85.3.388
Uncontrolled Keywords : music, musical biography, music and literature, gender studies, Ethel Smyth, Virginia Woolf
Related URLs :
Additional Information : This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in [Music and Letters] following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version [Wiley C (2004). “When a Woman Speaks the Truth About Her Body”: Ethel Smyth, Virginia Woolf, and the Challenges of Lesbian Auto/biography. Music and Letters 85(3):388-414] is available online at: http://ml.oxfordjournals.org/content/85/3.toc
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 29 Jan 2014 14:43
Last Modified : 09 Jun 2014 13:55
URI: http://epubs.surrey.ac.uk/id/eprint/800502

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